Scientists have detected and are studying ultra-powerful and mysterious blasts that seem to come from beyond the Milky Way and distant galaxies, Science, a leading research journal reports. “These bursts gave off more energy in a millisecond than the sun does in 300,000 years,” said Dan Thornton of the University of Manchester in England, one of the lead investigators in the study.
Scientists say these blasts are so quick that they last a few thousandths of a second but the energy they emit is unparalleled. According to scientists, these fast radio bursts (FRBs) occur once every ten seconds.
“Other variable extragalactic radio sources vary on timescales of days to months,” Thornton said. “FRBs happen in just a few milliseconds.”
Scientists are puzzled at what is causing these mysterious radio blasts, although they are certain the blasts occur. “ At least it’s not a mystery that they exist,” Thornton said. He said that observations disclose what he calls a “new cosmological population” of energy blasts, but the real nature of these blasts is unknown.
It was in 2007 that astronomers first detected a quick burst of radio noise. They were certain the radio burst came from beyond the Milky Way and they surmised it must be very powerful to be even discernible. They were mystified at the cause. Then in 2011, a similar burst happened.
Now using the powerful and giant Parkes radio telescope in Australia, scientists have discerned four more signals. They say the signals are coming from different points in the sky and ranging in distance from 5.5 to 10 billion light years away. Scientists have calculated it took some signals ten million years to reach the Earth. Scientists have inferred perhaps 10,000 of these blasts are occurring everyday all over the heavens.
“These are extragalactic in origin – not from the Milky Way – but the source is likely located in another galaxy,” Thornton said. “They are so bright and narrow that we can limit the size of the emission region at the source to just a few hundred kilometers.”
Scientists say they can surmise where the blasts are coming from but they do not know the cause of these explosions. They have offered different possibilities of what these bursts could be. These include evaporating black holes or massive black holes consuming neutron stars. Or according to James Cordes, an astronomer at Cornell University, “they could represent an entirely new class of source.”
Thornton says these blasts could be produced by ultra-dense magnetic fields from two neutron stars, ancient remnants of stars. “Our favorite explanation is a giant burst from a magnetar, a highly magnetized type of neutron star,” he said.
Astronomers have concluded that these four signals have had to journey through more plasma than could be accounted for by interstellar gas in the Milky Way. They discovered that extra gas lies between galaxies. This finding will lead to exploring the contents of distant galaxies and what lies between these galaxies
For now scientists do not know what these ultra-powerful blasts are. They only know these explosions are originating from beyond the Milky Way and are emitting more energy in a millisecond than the sun does in 300,000 years.
By Perviz Walji
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